Post 3: Navigating the Legislation Process with Social Justice

This past week has been very relaxed here on the Hill. Because of the holiday and shortened week, we were not in session at all, which means fewer suites, fewer meetings, and an overall calmer office. Because of the quieter work environment, this week has given me the chance to get to know the other interns in the office better and feel a little more comfortable in the office. During my down time and not-so-crazy days, I’ve been able to do a bit of exploring both on and off the Hill. Check out this picture of me representing Brandeis in front of the beautiful portrait of former President Barack Obama!

The interns in my office also took this week to check out the best view in all of DC: the Speaker’s Balcony. Did you really do a Hill internship if you don’t have a picture like this?! Hint: the answer is no.

All four interns from Congresswoman Clark’s office enjoying the view from the Speaker’s Balcony in the Capitol!

Besides my DC explorations, my time at my internship has allowed me to better understand the behind the scenes process of the federal government and how change really happens. The overall goal of any member of Congress or the Senate lies in the concept spoken by Abraham Lincoln, “that government [should be] of the people, by the people, for the people…” Working for Congresswoman Clark, I have seen firsthand how a member uses their power and their beliefs to mold our country for the better.

 

Consider the words written by our founding fathers in the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

That description is the exact social justice goal of the government, of any member, any staffer, and even any intern. This is then accomplished through understanding all aspects of our country, and then sponsoring, cosponsoring, opposing, and amending legislation that may affect those different aspects. For example, a bill that recently passed both the House and the Senate called the Farm Bill threatened cutting food stamps (the SNAP program), among many other things it achieves. The Senate version that was passed amended that part of the bill so the SNAP program is protected. The House will then have to vote again on the Senate version of the bill, and I, among others, hope that the SNAP program remains protected. This is just one example of different views and changes that could happen when trying to enact a piece of legislation. The different parties and members have diverse priorities that create tension but also awareness of issues that need to be considered.

The name plaque in front of our office in Longworth!

Overall, the legislative process is incredibly complicated and unpredictable, which makes explaining it in a short blog nearly impossible. But one day an intern could be doing research of a recently introduced bill, next the member may cosponsor it, and after moving through committee it could get passed through the House! But the likelihood of it ever going that smoothly is incredibly slim. If you are interested in understanding the craziness that occurs in the legislation process, I recommend you read “The Dance of Legislation” by Eric Redman. It does a better job than I can ever do describing the uncertainty yet significant steps of the process.

While many of the ideals in government of creating the best America we can stands true for almost every government official, the different views of how they should be enacted between parties makes achieving these goals very difficult. I have been very lucky to be given the opportunity to see this social justice work with a member whose ideals align with my own, but I cannot emphasize enough how getting anything done in government is no easy task. But something I always try to highlight is if you want to see change, call your representative, share your thoughts, and who knows, maybe I’ll pick up!

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